This week’s Torah reading is Leviticus 19 & 20, Kedoshim, which is part of what is known as the Holiness Code. The passage begins (19:2) and ends (20:26) with the declaration that the people of Israel are to be holy because ADONAI is holy and Israel, His chosen, is to be like Him. The next sixty verses summarize the Ten Words (Commandments) as they relate to man’s interaction with man and with the LORD. There are numerous warnings on how to treat not only one another but those who are marginalized in some way, the poor, the deaf, the blind, and the stranger. There is also a number of severe warnings concerning idolatry, adultery, and improper sexual unions. Many of these warnings have been ignored by our society today as curtailing or restricting one’s “freedom of choice.” Also, some might say, this part of the “holiness code” was designed for Israel, not the rest of humanity.
Answering the second observation first, the LORD told Moshe concerning Israel, “…as for you, you will be to Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you are to speak to Bnei-Yisrael,” (Yitro, Exodus 19:6). This calling out was not just for Israel’s sake. Israel was to be a kingdom of kohanim, priests, who would mediate the love, grace and revelation of ADONAI to the world. Yes, by all means there are sections of the Torah that are specifically for Israel, but the moral and ethical teachings of His revelation are for all mankind, with the intention or restoring all creation to its original state of “very good, (Bereishit, Genesis 1:31).
Rav. Shaul, in writing to the believers in Corinth, dealt with the first observation, that of “freedom of choice,” when he reminded them, “For you were bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). He then reiterates the fact when he states, “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men,” (1 Corinthians 7:23). Finally, Shimon (Peter) ties Shaul’s exhortations back to Leviticus when he writes,
So brace your minds for action. Keep your balance. And set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah. Like obedient children, do not be shaped by the cravings you had formerly in your ignorance. Instead, just like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in everything you do. For it is written, “Kedoshim you shall be, for I am kadosh.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
This brings us now to the Haftarah, Amos 9:7-15, which ties both to Kodeshim as well as the idea of the priestly mediation to the nations. First, the LORD reminds Israel that they are not like the rest of the nations, specifically calling Israel His children (9:7). Then, regardless of Israel’s uniqueness, He informs them that like the nations they will be judged for their sins and transgressions (9:8a). Even though He will “…shake the house of Israel among all the nations, like grain being tossed in a sieve,” (9:9), He affirms “…I will not annihilate the house of Jacob” (9:8b). But the judgment is not the end of the story!
…I (ADONAI) will restore the captivity of My people Israel. They will rebuild desolated cities and dwell in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine. They will also make gardens and eat their fruit. Yes, I will plant them on their land, and they will never again be plucked up out of their land that I have given to them.” Adonai, your God, has said it. (9:14-15).
Just as the original calling and setting apart of Israel was not for Israel’s sake alone, so will be her restoration. In Ma’asei HaShlichim (Acts), Ya’acov (James), in quoting Amos 9, notes emphatically that the restoration of Israel was not only for Israel’s sake but for “all humanity.”
“‘…I will raise up David’s fallen sukkah…so that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord—namely all the Gentiles who are called by My name’—says Adonai, who makes these things known from of old.” (Acts 15.16-18, cf. Amos 9:11).
The biblical narrative has never been about Israel alone, though Israel and the Jewish people are central to the narrative. The plan has always been to restore all creation. Rav Shaul, writing to the Romans states,
For the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly but because of the One who subjected it—in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans together and suffers birth pains until now—and not only creation, but even ourselves. (Romans 8:19-23).
Israel, the nations, all of creation currently await the full restoration of all things. Our concern today, however, should not be looking intently for what will assuredly happen in the future. Instead, we should be looking at passages like Kodeshim, and learn what it means to truly “…love your neighbor as yourself,” (Leviticus 19:18b; cf. Mark 12:30-31).